Hackers affiliated with the communist government of the People’s Republic of China stole millions of dollars in COVID-19 pandemic benefits, according to U.S. Secret Service sources cited by NBC News.
“The theft of taxpayer funds by the Chengdu-based hacking group known as APT41 is the first instance of pandemic fraud tied to foreign, state-sponsored cybercriminals that the U.S. government has acknowledged publicly, but may just be the tip of the iceberg, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and cybersecurity experts,” NBC News reported.
Funds purloined by the Chinese cyber spies amount to nearly $20 million, per the report.
Previously, the Secret Service reported the recovery of more than $286 million in fraudulent pandemic benefits.
Although the full scope of foreign exploitation of American COVID-19 relief programs may be larger than this initial disclosure, a congressional report published last week suggests pandemic funds flowing to foreign actors is just a drop in the bucket of the total fraud related to the programs.
According to the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, financial technology companies tasked with vetting applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans lacked oversight and fraud controls.
Poor controls on the part of those companies resulted in billions of dollars in fraudulent or improper loans receiving approval.